Local Albany athlete to light torch for Special Olympics

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ALBANY -- Joey Willock can hardly wait -- and understandably so.

The 32-year-old Albany Special Olympic star athlete, who competes -- and has medaled -- in almost every sport imaginable, will reach a new plateau in his career Saturday when he kicks off the Special Olympics Georgia Masters Bowling in Warner Robins with the prestigious honor of lighting the torch.

So how did Willock react after being told he'd been selected?

"I was excited. I (ran with the torch) a long time (ago) when I was a kid," Willock said, before adding that being the athlete to actually light the torch this time is a whole other level. "They asked me ... and I told them I would be (honored to) do it. I will do it for my team."

Willock's parents, Chuck and Gerri, will be on hand, as they always are, to support their son.

"We're there at every event, everywhere he goes," Gerri said. "We'll be talking pictures and cheering, especially this time. He's so excited he gets to do this."

The opportunity came about when the regional director of the Special Olympics over Area 14 in Southwest Georgia, Charles White, was asked to pick one athlete from his section for the honor.

And Willock was the first name that came to White's mind.

"I think Joey really stood out to him in the past because he's always done so well (in the Games) and because he's been a part of the Special Olympics for so many years," said Willock's coach, Maria Stamps, who is the Albany Recreation and Parks Department's local coordinator for the Special Olympics. "We're all real proud and honored. But most of all, we're happy for Joey. He's very deserving."

The bowling competitions will be held at Gold Cup Warner Robins and Robins Lanes Air Force Base. This is the first of three years Masters Bowling will be in Warner Robins

Willock, a Monroe grad who competed in Special Olympics all through high school before taking some time off and becoming involved again in 2007 when Stamps' local chapter was started, says he has three favorite sports he "loves" to compete in: Basketball, softball and, of course, bowling.

And Willock will look to lead the Albany Special Olympic Team to another medal this weekend in the Masters Series, which is a separate division for those over the age of 21.

"I bowl about 100 or so," Willock said. "I'll try to do that (this weekend)."

Willock, however, didn't stop there with his predictions for the event.

"What medal will I win?" he repeated the question. "Gold!"

That brought laughter from Gerri, who was standing nearby.

"That's what he always predicts," she said with a chuckle. "It's always gold."